NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale women's fencing team will begin its new season this weekend with the Penn State Open. The Bulldogs have a lot of fresh new faces and are excited to finally begin competitive play.
Last year, after compiling a 10-3 record during the dual-meet season, the Bulldogs went on to a 2-4 record and a fifth place finish in the Ivy League. In the first day of competition in Ithaca, N.Y., Yale lost to Columbia, Harvard, Penn and Princeton. Although the team did improve on its performances against these opponents from the previous year, it was unable to tilt the score in its favor. However, in the second day of competition in Philadelphia, P.A., the Bulldogs went undefeated. Yale defeated Cornell and Brown, each by a final score of 17-10. Though their overall standing in the Ivy League did not improve last season, the Bulldogs took solace in having improved individual results and performances.
As the Bulldogs look ahead to this season, they are scrambling to rebuild their team. Former captain Rebecca Moss, former manager Jennifer Ivers, Katherine Arden, Andrea Feuer, Farrah Kimovec and Kristin Saetveit were all lost to graduation. Additionally, the team has had some attrition with other fencers who have moved on to pursue other commitments. Finally, though the team has added some strong fencers this year, there are technically no new "recruits" in the class of 2014.
Therefore, along with the nine returning fencers from last year, the Bulldogs have added seven walk-ons. Of the seven new girls, two are epeeists, three are foilists and two are new to fencing.
The saber squad in particular is undergoing some restructuring. Last year, the squad was comprised of four seniors and current captain Madeline Oliver. After graduation, the squad was left with only one of the three necessary spots solidified. Therefore, the Elis are in the midst of training some new saberists.
"The new girls are really committed," said Oliver. "They are all working extremely hard to improve their skills and have really shown their dedication to the team."
Beyond the new fencers, Yale has several reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming season. The team will benefit greatly from the leadership of Oliver, as well as that of junior Katharine Pitt and sophomore Madeline Buxton. All three fencers qualified to compete in the NCAA National Championships. Pitt finished 13th among all foilists, Oliver finished 23rd among all saberists, and Buxton finished 24th among all epeeists.
The upcoming Penn State Open is a two-day tournament and an individual competition. Therefore, the Bulldogs will not technically be competing as a team, but they will available to support and cheer for one another. Though not all the Bulldogs will be traveling this weekend, Yale is bringing three saberists, three foilists and five epeeists to the competition. The tournament will be particularly crucial for the two new saberists, who are getting their first exposure to live college competition.
Regardless, Oliver is excited and optimistic.
"Like it or not, the two new saberists will be starting once dual-meet competition begins," she noted. "Yet they've both been working hard in practice and this weekend should be a great tune-up for them."
Looking ahead to the season in general, Oliver stressed the importance of being focused on a goal.
"Once the Penn State Open is over, we'll have a better idea about where we stand," she said. "After that, we'll set a team goal and do everything we can to achieve it. It's very important to have something to work towards."
Report by Arsi Sefaj '11, Yale Sports Publicity